Observations: The wizard of blogs

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The Independent Culture

Are the dark arts of the blogosphere invading the theatre? A 15-minute burst concerning the Royal Festival Hall's The Wizard of Oz suggests they might be. The perpetrators remain unidentified but they were reprimanded for having responded anonymously to scathing remarks on a theatre website's discussion forum about the show. "It wasn't nice," says Michael Lynch, chief executive of the Southbank Centre. "We don't want to be part of that kind of thing, and we won't be."

The industry is more cynical, suspecting the messages emanated from the SBC's marketing department. "If you want to respond to blog comments you do it openly ... but this is completely unethical," says the producer Raymond Gubbay.

There is a growing number of websites watched by producers and theatregoers alike. Last year the editorial director of www.whatsonstage.com, Terri Paddock, became concerned that some of the remarks were getting too personal and insisted on contributors registering, so the author could be traced if necessary. "The trouble was, people weren't nearly so free with their remarks and frankly it was getting boring, so we stopped making it a condition."